The Risks and Benefits of Labor Inductions

Get the Facts

If you're considering an induction, it's important to get all the facts before making a decision. If your doctor recommends one, make sure you understand why. In some cases it's very clear: Crissi Grooms of Charleston, South Carolina, was induced due to the combined risks of having gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and kidney failure.

"They wanted to get the pregnancy just far enough along to where the baby would be okay," says Grooms, who was induced at 36 weeks. "My body wasn't going to take much more."

But sometimes the reason is murkier. Krista Beale's first child was induced after a routine 40-week check revealed she was two centimeters dilated. "My obstetrician suggested induction because I am not a big person, and the baby was perhaps too big for me to deliver vaginally if we waited. I went right from her office to the hospital," says Beale, a mother of two from Oregon. Four hours later, her daughter was born at 7 pounds 14 ounces.

While inductions for big babies are common today -- and Beale was happy with her outcome -- not everyone thinks they are medically appropriate. "The truth is one does not necessarily prevent a cesarean delivery by inducing babies early that are deemed too big," says Dr. Droste. The advantage gained by delivering a slightly smaller baby is offset by the fact that an induced labor is less productive and may end in a cesarean anyway.

If you are uncomfortable with the idea of an induction, ask your doctor about alternatives. "I think it's fair for a patient to ask if this is necessary, if this is my only option," says William Rayburn, MD, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque. Increased monitoring and surveillance, including stress tests and ultrasounds, may be one option. Also ask about trying natural methods first, such as nipple stimulation or sexual intercourse, to initiate labor.

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